Are free trial memberships an effective association marketing tool?

Marketing your association via free trial memberships can be useful. However, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to make them truly effective:

  1. Make sure your association really has something to offer them during the trial period. Most trial periods don’t last the whole year, so make sure you have at least two or three items that will touch their lives during this period.
  2. Make sure you are capable of following up with the association prospects during this time period. Don’t simply offer the free trial period and then send an invoice at the end of the period. For this reason, it may be better to conduct the trial period as part of an organized association membership campaign rather than a standing offer that can be requested at any time.
  3. Start with those closest to your association’s members. While you could purchase a mailing list of prospects and extend a trial offer to them, you will likely achieve much better results by instead introducing the prospects to your association via a direct offer from their colleague, or, at a minimum, as part of a referral in a letter than accompanies the offer (e.g. Jane Smith suggested you might appreciate…).

One final – and very important – thought to keep in mind is that of financial implications. Extending a trial offers is much more feasible for associations that have a relatively low cost of starting and maintaining services for a member. If your association has a costly start-up period (perhaps you send them several costly resources) or a high member maintenance cost (perhaps dues to printing and mailing), then you will want to consider other options, or perhaps offer the trial period to only your very best prospects. On the other hand, if adding an incremental member has very little cost for your association, you can be much more liberal in extending your invitations.

Has your association ever used a trial membership offer? Was it successful?

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